Thursday, May 21, 2015

Answering Facebook Genealogy Questions

Due to a new job I haven't been spending much time on genealogy research or even reading the posts within the various genealogy related Facebook groups. However, I decided to spend some of my "free" time this past weekend reading and answering some of the queries recently posted in several on the Canadian focused groups.

I know I shouldn't be surprised but the number of responses where all that is given is an answer with no indication of the source or how it was found still bothers me. Sometimes it is a image from a record collection behind a paywall such as from Ancestry or Findmypast. Other times it is a copy and paste of the text from a web site. Besides the issue of copyright, something that both Judy G. Russell of The Legal Genealogist and James Tanner of Genealogy's Star write about often, there is the issue of education. If you, my gentle reader, just spoon feeds the information without any form of explanation of how or where it was found then the original poster won't learn how to find the information for themselves in the future.

For example, if someone was to ask a question about trying to find the obituary which is the better answer:
  1. Copy and pasting the obituary without any citation or indication of where it came from.
  2. Walking them through the web site used and providing the links so that they can learn how to do it themselves plus they get the question answered.

Note that I didn't say the right answer. Both are good answers since they provide an answer to the original question. However, if you said that "2" was the better answer then you are ready to start helping someone to learn about the "how to" of genealogy.

Of course this means that the original poster has to do some work1 by actually reading what you wrote and following links but it may mean they find additional resources to help them answer even more of questions. It also requires those that may be in the position to answer the question to read your posting. This takes work2 and I've noticed that is often not done.

Additionally, by teaching or showing how you found the record you give back something to the genealogy community. At the same time you get a better understanding of how you do your research.

So, although it may take a few minutes longer to answer the question and you may not be the first one to post, try providing a link to where you found the answer. Maybe even take the time to explain how you found it.

1. Oh no! I'm actually expected to do something?
2. See footnote #1

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